Some say that when life closes a door it opens a window.
In Boris Johnson’s recent “new deal” speech, during which he stood by the slogan “Build, Build, Build”, he proposed changes to the UK’s planning laws.
Could these changes help open a much needed window of opportunity for those invested in property? Let’s have a look.
A look at the high street
If online shopping caused “the death of the high street”, what has the Covid-19 lockdown done to it? Hit the nails in the coffin? Perhaps.
Take a socially distanced stroll through your local high street and you’ll likely see more doors closed than open. Companies in the retail, hospitality and restaurant sectors have been hit hard, especially those that were unable to adapt and provide any services under the restrictions of lockdown. Although restrictions have been eased, it is still certainly not “business as usual”.
Footfall remains low. Businesses have really had to adapt or die.
What hope is there for those invested in the property?
The property law changes, proposed by the Prime Minister, include a relaxation that would make it much easier for properties and land to be converted. Vacant shops could become homes or offices. Buildings could be demolished, and new ones could be constructed to better suit their new purpose. All of this without need to request, wait for, and obtain planning permission from local authorities.
Some strongly believe this is a huge opportunity for developers and investors. Heather Powell, from tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg, said: “Landlords who feel they have been beaten up both by the government and by tenants have now been given a huge advantage. They will soon be able to not only evict tenants but switch to a more lucrative use of their properties.”
She added: “Landlords should be assessing their options now – and developers should be speaking to their funders and investors so that they are well-placed to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The high street, transformed
Sandra Graham, from law firm Trethowans, insightfully said: “This is an innovative way to revitalise failing high streets and bring communities back into town centres, which can only improve social and cultural hubs. We have seen under Covid-19 the ability to communicate and socialise is so important to people’s health and well-being. This, in turn, can help improve inclusivity and eradication of isolation and loneliness. A social and cultural hub leads to a happy community.”
So while global brands will continue to offer services to customers online, town centres and high streets are perhaps likely to become much more community rather than consumer focused.
The changes to planning laws should come into effect by September. As restrictions are eased in both laws and Covid response, watch this space for innovation and much needed regeneration of areas like the high street.